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I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT...PREPARING FOR CHRISTMAS

I have been thinking about, and planning for Christmas services for awhile now. For me, it wasn’t until after enjoying the Thanksgiving turkey that I feel ready to appreciate the Christmas season. I know there are others who by early November, become lit up by the spirit of Christmas. And of course, some retail stores start displaying red and green decorations even before October 31st!

What does it take to prepare us for Christmas? Do we need to simply hear the first Christmas songs on the radio? Does the feeling of preparation arrive when we wake up from our post-Turkey Thanksgiving nap? Do we need the first snowfall? Is it seeing beautiful Christmas decorations in stores? Does it feel like Christmas only when we put up our own decorations? What does it take to get us prepared for Christmas? Obviously, I can’t answer that question for anyone except myself. You’ll need to find your own answers.

Looking back over my life, there have been many years in which Christmas was full of spirit and magic early in the season. Other times, however, I have just gone through the motions during the lead- up to Jesus’ birthday. Is there a switch in each of us that when flipped on, helps us to embrace this unique time of each year?

While I was reminiscing about past Christmas’ in my life, I realized that when I was young, EVERY Christmas held a wonderful sense of magic and mystery. Somewhere along the way as I grew up, those feelings got lost. Is it possible to get those feelings of delight back each and every year? It dawned on me that Christmas is a lot like my first kiss, or like my wedding day in 2001: always remembered, but never duplicated. Each occasion was a very unique, one-time event. Every Christmas has its own highlights, tender memories and for some, potential struggles and challenges.

So where and how might we find a sense of Christmas joy. How can we open ourselves to adopt a “Christmas mood”, so that throughout the season of Advent, we can get both our homes and our hearts prepared for Christmas?

In talking to and observing people, one thing I have learned is that what one person finds joyful about Christmas, leaves someone else saying, “Yeah, so what?” Each of us is very different, but perhaps we could share a common thrill if the feelings from the best Christmas we ever celebrated, could wash over us again.

In reality, preparing for the holidays is a process. It takes intentional effort. For many Christians, the purest preparation for Christmas begins when we remember that Jesus was born in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago. Each year when we read the Biblical story, the characters come to life in our hearts and minds. Through faith, we know that God came into the world as a human in order to teach us more about divine love, forgiveness and salvation. We have come to know that there really were shepherds, angels, and wise men who all celebrated this event as well.

When I am working on my family tree, one of the first things I look up, is where an ancestor is listed in the United States Federal Census. Think for a moment, about how Luke tells the story of Jesus’ birth: Caesar Augustus said that he wanted to take a census of his kingdom. That meant that actual census records existed that noted the birth of Jesus.

The Christmas story can authentically nudge us into the real spirit of Christmas. I know that there are many who celebrate Santa more than the Savior, and who believe that they’ve found the full joy of Christmas. I once heard of a birthday party where everyone came to the party, except for the person whose birthday it really was. They had to practically drag them to her own party. I don’t think they’d agree that “a fun time was had by all”. That’s what it’s like to celebrate Christmas without Jesus. The most important person, the highlight of the whole entire event, is missing.

When everything is said and done, and all of our differences are accounted for, active Christians know that the real seasonal spirit arises out of a deep-seated, lingering joy in knowing that the story of Jesus is true. In our homes, we have invited Jesus to the party,

The preparations have begun and Advent is here! Let the music, worship, Scriptures and your church family help you celebrate a meaningful Christmas.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

~Pastor J

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